Tuesday, 5 August 2014

A holly tree beside the Long Water, near the fallen horse chestnut tree, is always a rendezvous for Starlings, though I can never see why. Today some of them had come down from it and were foraging in the brambles. However, none of them seemed to be eating blackberries. Perhaps the ripe fruit had attracted insects which they were eating.

The young Reed Warblers in the reed bed near the Diana fountain were uttering harsh cries. Evidently they are still begging for food from their parents. Occasionally one of them would pop into view briefly among the stems.

The Great Crested Grebe family were staying in the shelter of the island. The chicks are already visibly larger, though the three of them can still fit on one parent's back. They can already dive for a few seconds.

The five Coot chicks at the Italian Garden are also growing up quickly, and are feeding themselves now. Here are two of them taking a break in a clump of water plants.

The three Mallard ducklings in the next pond are now wandering around independently, and are probably big enough to be out of immediate danger from gulls. Here are two of them resting on some trampled-down irises.

When the Italian Garden was first set out, it had clumps of plants in the ponds similar to the ones put in when it was restored recently. However, in those days the plants had an easier time: there were far fewer birds on the lake because the water was quite polluted, and there were no Coots at all because these plant-wrecking birds were not reintroduced into London till the 1920s.

There were always Mute Swans, which can tolerate filthy water because they can get out on to the bank and eat grass. Here is an engraving of c.1840 showing the top of the Long Water before the Italian Garden was built.

At this time the Westbourne river flowed directly into the lake and it was in a disgusting and smelly state. The three arches where the water came in are still visible behind the loggia in the Italian Garden, but the river has now been diverted into a pipe around the north side of the lake and flows into the Serpentine near the Ranger's Lodge; it is also a lot cleaner than it was because its upper reaches are completely paved over.

And here is a modern swan having a wash on the Serpentine.

The male Little Owl was on his usual branch.


  1. hi ralph

    that is a fascinating pic of the long water pre italian gardens. sounds like they are an improvement on what was there before. i know the starling tree you are talking about. they are so noisy aren't they. but as you say it's a mystery why they are are there. it doesn't look like a good food source & they remain deeply ensconced. mystery. love your blog so much. thank you.
    mark w2